The Funeral Mass for Fr Tim Crowley will be celebrated at St Bernadette’s Parish, Gardenia Grove, Lalor Park, on Friday 17 February at 11am. A private cremation will follow the Mass.
For those unable to attend, a Vigil Mass will be celebrated at St Bernadette’s Parish on Thursday 16 February at 7.30pm.
Fr Tim, who died on Tuesday 7 February aged 88, was Emeritus Parish Priest of St Bernadette’s Parish, Lalor Park.
Ordained a priest by Cardinal Gilroy in 1959, he served in parishes across the Sydney region: Clovelly, Camperdown, Darlinghurst, Meadowbank, Pymble, Moorebank, Kingsgrove, South Mount Druitt and Lalor Park.
In an interview with Catholic Outlook in 2014, Fr Tim looked back on his early life and priestly ministry.
Born and raised during the Great Depression, young Tim’s earliest memories are grounded in the struggles of a war-ravaged community, banding together to simply survive.
As the years passed, the wealthier families worked selflessly to protect the less fortunate like himself and, in time, slowly pulled the community back from the brink of collapse.
It was this generosity that had the greatest effect on the developing youth and would become a cornerstone of his ministry as he set about his spiritual path.
“I had a pretty good life even though we were poor,” Fr Tim said. “There was just this amazing sense of belonging because of these great people.
“If you went to the dairy for a pint of milk, they’d give you a pint and a half. If you went to the fruit shop to get some oranges they’d say take a couple of apples and bananas as well.
“Everyone was willing to just give that little bit extra for each other, and I learned a lot of good things there.”
At first, he questioned his calling, choosing to leave the seminary in his early teens to pursue what every other man of that age is interested in. But the sudden death of his brother-in-law left Tim’s niece desperately in need of a father figure.
And so, with a wistful glimmer in his eye, which remains to this day, Tim sacrificed his own promising relationship to rejoin the priesthood and become the man this young girl needed to guide her through life.
“When he died, I realised there were more important things in life,” Fr Tim said. “We aren’t bulletproof. We die.
“Going back to be a priest wasn’t easy. I had a good girlfriend at the time – a lovely, lovely girl – but I felt it was where I needed to be. So there I stayed, and had a wonderful life in the priesthood.”
And so he followed his calling. He counselled the sick and dying in Camperdown’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; rebuilt the Lalor Park ministry; and spent many a day visiting the lads at St Pat’s school in Blacktown for a round of theological debate.
In his later years he travelled the world, meeting some extraordinary people, from mountain-top prayer sessions with a native American to dinner with an astronaut.
Jack Swigert was a hero from the disastrous Apollo 13 mission and he shared a particularly fascinating perspective with the touring priest.
“He said, ‘I’m one of a privileged few who have had the opportunity of looking back at the world from space. You cannot describe the beauty; there are no words for it. And if that’s how beautiful the world is, how much more beautiful must be the mind of the Creator.”
Now in retirement, he still gets the odd “Hello Fr Crowley” when he’s out and about, but he certainly seeks no attention or praise, just a quiet book at home is all he needs to pass the time.
His involvement in the community has been limited since a fall one day at home, but while there is an ounce of strength in his body he will get back out there to continue God’s work for as long as he can.
Fr Tim looks back on his life with serene humility, and an undeniable joy that warms the memories of his past.
For he has experienced the even-hand of life and death, and found strength in his faith when it was tested the most. And for him that’s a life well lived.
Source: Catholic Outlook, September 2014, with Will Luckman.